8 March 2018

Recognising women’s work in cocoa production, today and every day

Recognising women’s work in cocoa production

Women’s work in cocoa production is rarely acknowledged. On this International Women’s Day, and every day through the International Cocoa Initiative’s (ICI) work in cocoa-growing communities, ICI recognises the important roles that women play in producing cocoa, building sustainable communities and promoting child protection.

Women play a number of direct roles in the cocoa supply-chain, including crop care, fermentation and drying (Barrientos 2013). They also engage in household duties and care work that enable other labourers to be productive. Furthermore, in ICI-assisted communities in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, women are increasingly taking on leadership roles in community and farmer organizations, contributing to decisions regarding cocoa production and community development.

Despite these achievements, women in cocoa-growing communities continue to face multiple barriers to their participation and remuneration in cocoa production. In Cote d’Ivoire, women own 25% of cocoa farms and form 68% of the cocoa labour force, yet only earn 21% of the income generated from cocoa production (Marston 2016). The situation is similar in Ghana, where 25% of cocoa farmers are women and women’s work is the most frequently used type of family labour on cocoa farms (Marston 2016; ICI 2016). In both countries, women have unequal access to credit, extension services and production inputs. Moreover, the ICI Labour Market Research Study found that women cocoa farmers in Ghana struggle to afford hired adult labour and thus use child labour to compensate (ICI 2016).

Gender gap in education

Beyond cocoa production, women in cocoa-growing communities have lower levels of education than men. In ICI-assisted communities in Cote d’Ivoire, only 2.2% of communities reported that most women had attained senior high school education, compared to 13% for men. The situation in ICI-assisted communities in Ghana is even direr, with no women reaching this level of education compared to 17.2% of communities reporting that men had. In ICI-assisted communities in both Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana, women also have lower literacy rates than men. In 69.6% of ICI-assisted communities in Cote d’Ivoire and 75.9% in Ghana, less than 30% of women are able to read. In comparison, men reported literacy levels at less than 30% in only 17.4% of ICI-assisted communities in Cote d’Ivoire and 20.7% of communities in Ghana (ICI 2017).

Investing in women, and empowering them to overcome these obstacles, is key to ensuring child protection and sustainable development in cocoa-growing communities. Women primarily spend their income on children’s education and nutrition as well as basic household and community needs (Marston 2016). When women’s economic rights are protected, their children are more likely to attend school. Studies across cash crops also suggest that, when given adequate support, women produce higher quality produce then men (Ibid). It is clear that investing in women helps to reduce child labour and further sustainable development in cocoa-growing communities.

ICI works closely with members of cocoa-growing communities in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire to promote women’s empowerment. ICI provides literacy and marketing training and also supports women to develop their own income-generating activities, which helps them to both diversify and increase their income. Income-generating activities range from jewellery making to rice farming and soap-making. They result in increased income for women and improved school attendance and protection for children. Women in ICI-assisted communities in Ghana also report spending income earned from these activities on children’s health, schooling and nutrition (ICI 2018). Furthermore, ICI helps to set up community service groups which provide women with affordable adult labour and reduce their reliance on child labour, especially on hazardous tasks.

Today, ICI reflects on the strides we have made bolstering women’s skills and income as well as the continued need to strengthen women’s participation, recognition and remuneration in cocoa production. ICI is committed to empowering women in cocoa-growing communities not just today, International Women’s Day, but every day.



Barrientos, Stephanie. (2013) “Women in cocoa production: where is the gender equity?” The Guardian.

CARE International. (2016) Women’s Leadership in Cocoa Life Communities: Emerging Best Practices of Women’s Leadership within cocoa farming in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire. CARE International, Mondelez International and Cocoa Life.

Marston, Ama. March 2016 Women’s Rights in the Cocoa Sector: Examples of Emerging Good Practice. Oxfam Discussion Papers.

ICI (2016) M. Vigneri & R. Serra. Researching the Impact of Increased Cocoa Production on the Child Labour Risk and Labour Market in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire.

ICI. (2017) 2016 Reporting – ICI Protective Cocoa Community Framework (PCCF): Older Communities (2015-2016) and Newer Communities (2016). PCCF Report Doc #35-17b. Geneva, Switzerland. (Internal)

ICI. (2018) ICI Women’s Empowerment Survey Reporting – Ghana. (Internal)

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